Ken Heinly, Vice President, Boeing Launch Services
Boeing, which has had a limited role in the commercial launch market for several years, could be set to make more of an impact in this area, according to Ken Heinly, vice president, Boeing Launch Services. Heinly talks about why the dynamics now are favorable for the company and why he thinks Boeing Launch Services could be a compelling choice for customers even if the vehicle is more expensive then other launch options.
Via Satellite: What are the major challenges for Boeing over the next 12 months?
Heinly: I think the major challenge for Boeing over the next year, as we market the Delta rocket, is to let everyone know that we are back in the commercial business. We had a commercial launch this year for Thales Alenia Space, the Cosmo-SkyMed 1 [on the Delta 2 vehicle], but prior to that we had not had a commercial launch for about five years. This was primarily due to the downturn in the market and us not viewing our rockets as necessarily competitive. … I anticipate that once the [United Launch Alliance joint venture] has fully consolidated their activities that efficiencies will result allowing the Delta rockets to be more competitive.
Via Satellite: Why are the dynamics now in your favor to return to the commercial market?
Heinly: At the end of last year we had people enquire to Boeing about the availability of launch services. I think this comes down to the fact that perhaps some of the other launchers were perhaps having problems, some of the customers were perhaps unable to get permission to launch their satellite on Russian-based rockets. For a number of reasons, people had come to us. As a result, we have put under contract Cosmo-SkyMed 1 and 2, the WorldView-1 for DigitalGlobe, and GeoEye. I think there are continued opportunities with all those operators as well as other customers.
Via Satellite: What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months in the commercial market?
Heinly: I would certainly want the Delta 2 prospects for launches to stay constant or get better. Right now we are planning to launch three commercially this year and two next year. I would like to see us at the two-to-three level for the rest of the decade. What we do after that will be somewhat dependent on where the market goes and other factors such as the U.S. Air Force and NASA’s interest in Delta 2.
For the Delta 4 we have been in communications with customers. We do not have any new commercial launches signed up. We are talking to people about Delta 4. We recognize our ability to offer presently launch slots which will probably not be available until 2010 and that it will take a while for this specialized market to get going.
Via Satellite: How do you see the market for launch services developing?
Heinly: I am thinking in terms of the medium-class satellites that we could launch on Delta 2. We see that as a fairly level market for us. There is a lot of optimism that the number of Delta 4 class launches will continue to increase. We know right now we are not cost competitive on Delta 4 with the Russian-based rockets, but we do think there will be a customer here or there where we will be able to meet their needs. With the [United Launch Alliance] being formed the production facilities are being consolidated and the program management and engineering are also being consolidated. After the consolidation has taken place, those efficiencies should allow us to procure these rockets … at a lower price, and therefore, we will be able to sell them at a lower price. The moves from a personnel standpoint are taking place now and will be in pace by the end of the year. I do not know the schedule relative to consolidating the factory, but I would think it would take place several years.
Via Satellite: How do you make Delta 4 more competitive?
Heinly: It all depends on where the market goes. When we thought the market was going to be robust we looked at the dual manifest capability to put on top of the Delta 4 heavy which would have afforded some price advantage to the users. That was put aside. If the market was to blossom, we could get into a situation where we could offer customers single, dedicated launches and dual manifest launches, but that would require some development. There are a lot of variables as to whether that could happen. I don’t think dual manifests are going to happen soon on Delta 4 unless it is driven by the government customer. For the commercial market, we could talk about dual manifests after the efficiencies are realized.
Via Satellite: Do you think the way FSS operators secure services launch providers will change?
Heinly: We have had customers come to us relative to discussions looking for multiple launch opportunities. They would approach us and say for example, “We are going to launch perhaps five satellites over the next few years. Is there something we can do with you in terms of launching of all of those satellites?” I would certainly think it could make sense for us to look to enter into those types of long-term agreements. I think customers would be very comfortable with doing this with the Delta 2 rocket in particular. … In the dealings we have had with customers, there has been many times when they have wanted to spread their satellites over many launchers. This may be due to launch slot availability or the inherent risk of business. You may not want to assign all your satellites to one launcher.
Via Satellite: With more players looking to get involved in this market, what impact will this have on established launch providers?
Heinly: I think we definitely have to take them seriously. Perhaps not this decade, but we will have to consider them eventually. As you know, many satellites are being constructed with U.S. components, and that has slowed down the ability to import those into places like China and launch them from there. I don’t see it as something we have to think about too much either this year or next, but they could definitely be players in the market sometime in the future.